9 Places to Learn a Cool New Skill on Vacation

Fly Fishing in WyomingFly fishing River
Glenda Powers/Dreamstime

From woodworking to cooking to fly-fishing, there are lots of opportunities to bring a new skill back from your vacation.

You may have noticed, the older you get, the quicker time seems to pass. The reason behind this mystery is a scientific one that boils down to this: when you’re young, new skills and activities are a constant in your life; as you age, routine settles in and your brain doesn’t need to be as active because, essentially, it already knows the drill, so-to-speak. Want to slow down time? Learn something new. Since travel already has you in an unknown place, take the experience to the next level by trying out a fun class that will provide you with a new skill to take home. After all, physical souvenirs were so yesterday.

1. Coffee culture: Portland, Oregon

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(Georgy Iliin/Dreamstime) 

Once upon a time, you’d order your coffee, the worker would ask if you want milk or sugar, and you’d be on your way. But in today’s era of single origin coffee, there’s much more to know. The artistry of a barista, some would say, is as involved as baking these days, and at Nossa Coffee (nosacoffee.com/classes/) in Portland, Oregon, you can develop your understanding of the art. Take your pour-over coffee skills to the next level with a free tour and session in cupping, the professional technique for tasting coffee. Or get more involved at one of the various 90-minute classes revolving around barista life. Reservations are recommended. 

2. Cake decorating: Hoboken, NJ

Wouldn’t it be nice to attend a birthday party or other celebration with a beautifully decorated cake, frosted and detailed with your own two hands? Bartolo Jr. “Buddy,” who oversees a  small but well known empire of Carlo’s Bake Shop bakeries (classes/carlosbakery.com) in New Jersey, can help you do just that. Considering he made an appearance on TLC’s “Cake Boss,” he certainly has a lot to teach. He offers two-hour classes at Carlo’s Bake Shop’s Hoboken location. From instructions on autumn leaves, comic-themed cakes, and everything in between, check out the shop’s calendar to find what best suits your taste.

3. Sushi rolling: North Andover, Massachusetts 

Often times, when you crave a particular food, you can throw together the ingredients to satisfy your taste buds. Sushi, on the other hand, is one of those dishes that require some skill. Situated 20 miles north from Boston and close to tax-free shopping in New Hampshire, Taste Buds Kitchen in North Andover (tastebudskitchen.com) is home to a variety of cooking classes that focus on a variety of cuisines. There’s the aforementioned sushi class as well as lessons in handmade pasta, Thai cuisine, and how to cook with beer and with wine. Speaking of, if cooking with a glass of cabernet in hand is your thing, feel free to BYOB.

4. Floral Arrangements: Portland, Maine

Picking up a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store and placing them just so in your home instantly gives the room a pick-me-up. Imagine how much more meaningful that could be if you thoughtfully arranged the flowers. There’s certainly an art to the perfect bouquet and a Wednesday evening class at Sawyer and Company (sawyercompany.com) in Portland, Maine, can help you find your florist fingers. When you’re done, hop over to Nosh Kitchen for a delicious grass-fed burger or check out one of the many local breweries for a tour and tasting. 

5. Woodworking: Orlando, Florida

wood-crafting-tools.jpg?mtime=20181008160151#asset:103431(Kyryl Gorlov/Dreamstime)

Maybe you are planning an all-things-Mickey trip, but in the event you find yourself in the city of theme parks with a spare day, Woodcraft of Orlando (woodcraft.com) can teach you the basics of woodworking (or something more advanced, like the art of creating specific joints, should you choose). In the all-women beginner class, for example, participants will make and take home a cutting board as they learn how to use a table saw, jointer, miter saw, and router. Classes run five to six hours.

6. Essay writing: New York, New York

Outside-New-School-Building.jpg?mtime=20181008160510#asset:103432(Peter L Gould/Dreamstime)

New York City is the publishing capital of the world, so there’s no better place to get inspired and tap your inner author. Susan Shapiro’s essay class (susanshapiro.net) can help you do just that. Her well-known “Instant Gratification Takes Too Long” is a five-week course at The New School, but she also offers an abridged version as a one-time evening course just about every month. The majority of her students get published in big-time publications. Everyone has a story, so after you’ve worn out your feet taking in the city’s myriad sites and sounds, take a load off and head over to Greenwich Village where you’ll learn the elements of a personal essay as well as tips for pitching editors.

7. Improv Comedy: San Francisco 

San Francisco is a global capital of creativity and invention. Little wonder you’ll feel inspired to conquer something new when you’re there. While you may not have aspirations of stepping up to the mike and captivating a crowd of 30,000 with your jokes, improv is a skill that almost anyone can use. It’s more than just delivering funny one-liners. It’s about laughing, learning how to navigate a crowd, and coming out of your shell. Improv San Francisco (improv.org/school/3-hour-intro-workshop) has a three-hour intro workshop ($45) to help you with just that, with one class specifically dedicated to those who consider themselves shy. 

8. Fly Fishing: Laramie, Wyoming 

Wyoming-Fly-Fishing.jpg?mtime=20181008161214#asset:103433(Glenda Powers/Dreamstime)

Perhaps it’s the calming effect of sitting out on a boat on a quiet lake, or the whooshing sound of the line as it goes to and fro, but any fly fisher will tell you that once you try it a few times, you’ll be hooked. Chances are, if you’re planning a trip to the Laramie area, you’re already a fan of being immersed in the great outdoors. Certainly, Wyoming is home to guided fishing excursions, but if you’re only first getting your feet wet, a fly-tying class is an excellent introduction to the sport. Four Seasons Anglers (fourseasonaanglers.com) provides classes to the public as well as private sessions on request. To take it a step further, try their free casting lesson.

9. Archery: Colorado Springs, Colorado

You can’t hear someone mention Colorado and not think about the Rockies. Or mountains in general, for that matter. But situated a bit lower to the ground you’ll find many opportunities to practice patience and precision with an introduction to archery. The family-owned Archery Hut (thearcheryhut.com) offers a beginner class Wednesday evenings for $25. Beyond the class, there is a 4,000 square foot range that is open at a drop-in rate for all ability levels.

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